2006 YEAR IN REVIEW
FFRF is Growing Fast!
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has been the largest national association of atheists and agnostics for at least a decade, has had unprecedented growth. FFRF added a net of 1,500 new members in 2006, a 25% membership increase. FFRF is approaching 8,000 members, and has an additional 500 supporters.
"Wake Up" Campaign
Initiated by a generous benefactor offering a $25,000 matching grant, the Foundation undertook a well-timed "Wake up America to the dangers of theocracy" campaign in 2006. With wonderful response from its membership, FFRF launched public outreach, including our first foray into national radio advertising on Air America radio.
The Foundation launched Freethought Radio in April 2006--the only weekly, hour-long freethought radio broadcast in the nation. The show, cohosted by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, has been broadcast in Madison, Wis., over the local Air America affiliate, and podcast around the nation. The goal is not just to "preach to the unconverted," but to educate the public and raise freethought visibility. High-powered guests have included Ron Reagan and many provocative authors and activists.
Legal Victories & Developments
FFRF Faith Challenge Accepted by Supreme Court. The Foundation's challenge of the creation the Office of Faith-based Initiatives at the White House and several cabinets has been accepted for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, with oral arguments in February and a decision expected by June 2007. At issue is the right of taxpayers to sue over unconstitutional actions by the executive branch.
Veteran Affairs Lawsuit. The Foundation filed suit in April 2006 against the Department of Veteran Affairs for the integration of "spirituality" and religion into all aspects of medical care. While chaplains have traditionally been available to hospital-bound vets as an accommodation, the VA is now making chaplains a full part of the medical team, even for outpatient care. Outlandish "spiritual inventories" are routinely taken in many VA hospitals and clinics, demanding to know how many times vets pray, read the bible, go to church, etc.
Federal Bureau of Prisons. In May 2006, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Attorney General's Office, for its plan to host "single-faith" pods in various federal penitentiaries. After FFRF's lawsuit was filed, the Bureau suspended its call for the "single-faith" programs. In October 2006, in a major victory, the Bureau announced it cancelled plans for the "single-faith" ministries! The Foundation's lawsuit continues to challenge the "multifaith" ministry set up by the feds.
New Mexico prison program. FFRF is awaiting the court's ruling in its lawsuit against the State of New Mexico and the for-profit prison provider it contracts with, over a fundamentalist Christian prison ministry in Grants, N.M. Women must memorize many bible verses before being accepted into the 24/7 bible-based residential treatment program.
FFRF has won five major federal lawsuits against the faith-based initiative so far, with the additional above four ongoing, all taken by attorney Rich Bolton.
FFRF reissued in hardback form Dan Barker's popular book, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, which has been in print as a paperback since 1992.
The Foundation placed copies of lyricist Yip Harburg's Rhymes for the Irreverent (FFRF, 2006) in many libraries, with help from members. Yip, who wrote the words to such American classics as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," was an ardent atheist, whose rhymes enlighten with a smile.
In its continuing outreach and encouragement to young freethinkers, the Foundation awarded $8,300 to winning student essayists in its 2006 college and high school senior competitions. Winning essays are published in Freethought Today.
Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, participated in 12 debates in 2006, in Minnesota, Arkansas, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Ohio, and also spoke to college students in Alabama, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. He gave speeches or musical concerts to the Atlanta Freethought Society, and Unitarian and humanist societies around the country.
4-Star Charity Status
Charity Navigator, the largest independent evaluator of charities, awarded the Foundation its "four-star" rating in 2006:
"Only 12% of the charities we've rated have received at least two consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Freedom from Religion Foundation outperforms most charities in America in its efforts to operate in the most fiscally responsible way possible."
2006 National Convention
There was a lot of energy in the air with nearly 600 freethinkers coming together to meet and hear distinguished speakers and activists, at FFRF's 29th annual national convention in San Francisco Oct. 6-8, 2006. Much-requested speaker Sam Harris ( The End of Faith) opened the conference, and Julia Sweeney closed it, with her funny, piquant and wise one-woman show, "Letting Go of God." Julia received this year's Emperor Has No Clothes Award, recognizing public figures for their "plain speaking" on religion.